The baby vamp and the decline of the west: Biographical and cultural issues in F. Scott Fitzgerald's portrayals of women
Meaning in F. Scott Fitzgerald's fiction results from biographical and cultural connotation. Fitzgerald wrote semi-autobiographical fiction. As a young author, he wanted to live as a romantic hero. Marrying Zelda Sayre, he enriched his romantic possibilities. Encouraged as a child to be charming, she complied with her husband's portrayal of her. She suited her role as his muse. As she matured, the conflicting pulls of her authentic and fictional selves destroyed her. Western culture supported Fitzgerald's "creating" Zelda. C.G. Jung argues that men, in worshipping women, have revered their own creative powers. In his Zelda character, Fitzgerald celebrates his authority as an artist. The conspiratorial Zelda that he sees refuses to live in his fictional cage; she strives to become an artist in her own right. In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan is a modern muse. Since he constructs his own reality, Jay Gatsby is a figurative artist. In the failure of Gatsby's vision, Fitzgerald disparages American consumerism. While Gatsby emerges as American myth, in Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald creates a metaphor for Western decline. In Tender, Fitzgerald shows that women's worlds are chaotic--he shows women to be incapable of governing. He uses Nicole Diver to show that sexually assertive women are bestial. Seemingly, to Fitzgerald, there can be no equality of authority between the sexes. Fitzgerald evidently reacts against female emancipation.